Emotions are the names we give our feelings. Good emotions such as happiness and joy are easy to feel and understand. People have trouble processing negative emotions such as anger, jealousy and grief. Negative emotions are more complicated and scary, but they also lead us to examine what is lying underneath the feeling.

Parents have the opportunity to teach children that negative emotions are not necessarily bad because they hold valuable lessons about our experiences. For example, we often react with anger when our children are angry. Instead, we need to allow children to recognize what the anger is attached to, feel its depth, identify how it can be transformed and then learn to release it from their mind and body.

Here is a simple exercise even very young children can be led through in order to process and release negative emotions. This exercise can be modified depending upon the age of the child. It is also very productive for adults. By using this four-step process, you can teach your children how to handle even the most difficult emotions.

The first step in dealing with a negative emotion is to STOP . Don’t say a word. Stand still. Look into your child’s face, even if they are screaming or crying. Connect your eyes with their eyes. Recognize that the negative emotion is a problem, but use the moment to demonstrate your awareness. It is up to you to recognize when your child is being carried away by an emotion.

Step two is to IDENTIFY  the emotion, whether it is anger, jealousy, pain, etc. This is where you give it a name. Say, “I can see that you feel really angry.” You confirm their anger and are present with them in their emotion.

Step three is to FEEL . Encourage your child to fully experience the emotion. If they are angry or sad, ask them if they feel like crying. Have them tell you what the emotion feels like and where it lives in their body. Young children are so in tune–they love this exercise. This typically leads to a great conversation about exploring feelings, where they live in the body and how they make them feel.

The fourth step is to RELEASE , and this is the fun part. Once your child has made a connection with the emotion, where it lives in the body and what it feels like, then they get to let it go! Ask your child how they would enjoy releasing the anger or what physical type of movement would they prefer? Many children want to stomp around the room or yard, some want to hit a punching bag, others like to run and scream at the same time. When first learning how to deal with negative emotions, especially for younger children, it’s important that they fully connect with the process.

These steps can be used at any time after the negative emotion has surfaced. But if an emotional situation gets out of control with the child and you cannot communicate, do not get upset. Allow it to pass.  Once the child is calm, verbally walk him or her through the steps. Know you have this tool to find some closure.

It is always possible to revisit any past negative emotional problem and work through it until some healing arrives. Just be sure that you have the time, space and desire to do so.

As your child gets older, there are more age appropriate ways to release these emotions such as participating in a safe physical activity like hitting a pillow, going for a hike or a run or writing in a journal.

If you take the time to work through this process, children will know how to make an appropriate release on their own as they mature.

If you find that as an adult, you are holding onto the effects of past negative emotions of your own, healing is still possible. Know that your past unresolved hurt might still have a hold on you and influence the way you are able to parent. It is never to late to process emotions. Take care of yourself in this way first so you are better able to take care of your child. Please review the Adverse Childhood Experiences information on page 65 of the book Raising a Happy Spirit.

This four step plan will create an adult who acts mature, responsible and in control of his or her feelings. They will be better at conflict resolution techniques. Children who process their emotions won’t shy away from their feelings but will own them and make decisions that lead to good solutions.

Finally, it is important to know that the emotion should not rule the resolution. This means avoiding these two outcomes:

ƒƒBargaining, as when you say, “If you stop crying I will give you candy.” ƒƒLetting uncontrolled negative emotions rule everyday behavior and become a way of life.

Fully recognizing, celebrating and processing our full range of emotions in an honest, safe and forthright way deepens the human experience. It puts everyone– children and parents alike–more in touch with their spiritual selves.

Click here to purchase the ebook, Raising a Happy Spirit: The Inner Wisdom of Parenting, or contact Julianna Lyddon directly at connectwithjulianna.com.

 Julianna Lyddon

Connect with Julianna